Kroger is closing at least two of their Ralphs grocery stores in Los Angeles in May due to the city's "hazard pay" mandate.
This is an unpleasant surprise for many customers.
“What?? They’re going to close it? Ralphs is going to close,” asked customer, Bura Kim.
Kim, with arm-loads of groceries walks to Ralphs, she says, because “it’s safe.”
“There’s nothing, like, close by my house,” she said.
Alexa Rowe, who also hadn’t heard about the closure until we told her, is disappointed.
“It’ll be a huge bummer. I guess I’m going to have to drive somewhere,” she stated.
The Pico-Robertson Ralphs will shut its doors on May 15th and a second LA Ralphs and a Food-4-Less will also close.
Cincinnati-based Kroger, which owns the chain, blames it on LA’s COVID-19 “hazard pay” mandate. Five extra bucks an hour for employees. The city council passed the ordinance a few weeks ago.
“That’s messed up. I don’t want to swear, but I’m not about it!” Rowe said.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW) union says Kroger's income is actually up, company-wide, after an entire year of home-bound grocery buying across the country!
“There’s no other company that’s paying hazard pay, that’s closing. Only Kroger,” said Kathy Finn, from UCFW. “From $1.5 billion to $2.6 billion they made in profit last year.”
One long-time customer told us, “there’s no way a supermarket that serves Kosher take-out is under-performing.” She says she simply can’t believe it.
If there is a performance problem here, we can’t confirm it. We reached out to Ralphs reps in LA and Kroger's corporate on the east coast for comment, but there has been no response from either.
“The CEO of Kroger is getting $21 million in compensation. I mean, that’s not right!” said Ralphs employee, David Louie.
Louie has worked at the store since the day it opened. He’ll be among 250 other employees, whose futures with the company are up in the air now.
Another employee, Brittany Bouknight has only been there for one year.
“It’s been rough – especially now that this is happening,” she said.
The union tried to deliver a demand letter and petition to keep the store open after their rally, but the Ralphs managers quickly scooted away.
On Thursday evening, John Votava, the Director of Corporate Affairs at Kroger - Ralphs Division, released the following statement on the matter.
Ralphs and Food 4 Less have made the difficult decision to close three of its 68 locations in the City of Los Angeles. The closures follow the Los Angeles City Council’s mandate that requires a select group of employers to provide extra pay for frontline workers, but not all companies who employ frontline workers. The mandate will add an additional $20 million in operating costs over the next 120 days, making it financially unsustainable to continue operating the three underperforming locations. Despite our efforts to overcome the challenges we were already facing at these locations, the extra pay mandate makes it impossible to run a financially sustainable business that ensures our ability to continue serving the Los Angeles community at those three locations with reliable access to affordable, fresh groceries and other essentials. We are proud of our role as a leading employer in Los Angeles and remain committed to our dedicated associates on the frontlines serving in our 65 other area locations.
Please see our fact sheet about the store closures at https://bit.ly/3tOQMca.